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PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR

Paul Delvaux
LE VEILLEUR III OU HORIZONS
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Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,800,0002,200,000
LOT SOLD. 2,655,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
67

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR

Paul Delvaux
LE VEILLEUR III OU HORIZONS
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,800,0002,200,000
LOT SOLD. 2,655,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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New York

Paul Delvaux
1897 - 1994
LE VEILLEUR III OU HORIZONS
Signed P. Delvaux and dated 11-62. (lower right); signed P. Delvaux and inscribed Horizons (on the stretcher)
Oil on canvas
67 3/4 by 107 1/8 in.
172 by 272 cm
Painted in November 1962.
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Provenance

Gustave Nellens, Knokke (acquired from the artist)

Thence by descent

Exhibited

Brussels, Musée d'Ixelles, Paul Delvaux, 1967, no. 44

Ferrara, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Cento anni di pittura belga, 1970, no. 104, illustrated in the catalogue 

Knokke-Heist, Casino, Hommage à G. J. Nellens, 1972, no. 21, illustrated in the catalogue 

Knokke-Heist, Casino, Paul Delvaux, 1973, no. 48, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Le Temps des gares, 1978

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Aspects d’une réalité quotidienne: 150 ans de chemin de fer en Belgique, 1985

Paris, Hommage à Paul Delvaux, 1985, no. 17

Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Paul Delvaux, 1986

Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Paul Delvaux, 1992

Brussels, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Paul Delvaux 1897-1994, 1997, no. 101, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Michel Butor, Jean Clair & Suzanne Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, Paris & Lausanne, 1975, no. 271, illustrated p. 257

Jacques Sojcher, Paul Delvaux ou la passion puérile, Paris, 1991, illustrated p. 72

Catalogue Note

The mysterious paintings of Paul Delvaux are regarded as some of the most alluring examples of Surrealist Art. His compositions are renowned for their hallucinatory scenarios and dream-like imagery, as well as their serene atmosphere. Le Veilleur III presents a complex urban environment which is populated by four enigmatic figures, two of them depicted semi-nude despite the outdoor setting. The deep perspective of the work allows a glimpse of a world beyond, although the artist does not offer an explanation for the incongruous appearance of the figures.

As with most of Delvaux’s paintings, the meaning behind this scene is mysterious, and the relationship between the clothed and semi-nude figures, as well as their relationship to their surroundings remains obscure. Throughout his lifetime, the artist resisted providing any sort of narrative for his pictures, stating quite clearly, "I do not feel the need to give a temporal explanation of what I do, neither do I feel the need to account for my human subjects who exist only for the purpose of my painting. These figures recount no history: they are. Further, they express nothing in themselves" (quoted in Paul Delvaux 1897-1994 (exhibition catalogue), Op. cit., p. 22).

In an earlier version of this image, titled Le Veilleur II and painted in 1961, Delvaux depicted a similar modern urban setting with the train and its illuminated windows dominating the night-time scene. In the foreground the night watchman referred to in the title stands facing the trains, a lamp in his hand. In the present composition, painted the following year, the oil-lamp alone hangs on a wooden fence, and the four figures, which appear to belong to different, unrelated worlds, dominate the image. The composition displays a wonderful play of light and darkness, reminiscent of Magritte’s celebrated series of oils known as L’Empire des lumières: a dark tonality, the full moon and long shadows indicate an evening scene and stand in contrast to the bright sky illuminated by the flame-like colors of the setting sun. Barbara Emerson has written of the way that "Delvaux uses light to great effect, almost as if he were manipulating theatrical equipment of spots and dimmers" (B. Emerson, Delvaux, Paris & Antwerp, 1985, p. 174).

The importance of the imagined architectural setting was paramount for Delvaux. While in the present composition he depicts an entirely modern exterior dominated by contemporary buildings and trains, he was certainly aware of the ancient connection made between the column and the human form, particularly a draped female body, and David Scott has pointed out how Delvaux's early mastery of architectural drawing played an all-important role in the development of his imagery: "Delvaux uses perspective to establish a tension between nude and background, in which these elements combine, becoming charged with erotic energy. In transmitting its electricity along the lines of perspective with which it is juxtaposed, the nude body eroticizes its environment; the viewer of a work, while absorbed by the desirable objects in the foreground of the picture, is nevertheless enticed by the perspectival lines to look through or beyond them" (D. Scott, Paul Delvaux: Surrealizing the Nude, London, 1992, p. 103).

Although Delvaux's paintings are renowned for their other-worldly imagery, the artist claimed not to be a proponent of the writings of Sigmund Freud and did not invest his compositions with psychoanalytic references favored by, among others, Dalí and Miró. Delvaux's approach to painting was more subtle in its representation of the uncanny: without being overtly grotesque or offensive with his imagery, he would interrupt the peacefulness and banality of a given scene with instances of the bizarre. Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque writes of the artist in the context of the Surrealists: "There is no need whatsoever of psychological analyses or psychoanalytical interpretations... to understand the world of Delvaux. It is made of simplicity and reality. It is the blossoming and affirmation of poetry by means of the contrasts that exist between the great monumental figures and the anachronistic settings in which they move. In this the artist agrees with the thinking of Breton who declared that the more the relationships were distant and exact, the more powerful the image would be. More than Delvaux the painter, it was Delvaux the surrealist poet whom Eluard and Breton hailed because his pictorial universe exists out of time, eludes fashion and defies any attempt at classification" (quoted in Paul Delvaux 1897-1994 (exhibition catalogue), Op. cit., p. 27).

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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New York